The SOHOMike Blog

August 5, 2016

UFOs Release Firefox Update!

Filed under: Threats and Scams — Michael Cabral @ 12:00 AM

Beware! Unidentified Fiendish Organizations have released a bogus Firefox update! The “update” (see image) appears when you are browsing the Internet. The browser will show a very professionally designed image of the Firefox logo, with the words Urgent Firefox Update. In addition to this, a file download dialog box will automatically appear offering to download a file named firefox-patch. The file is an executable, which means that it is an app (or computer program, as we used to say in the old days) that runs on Windows.

Image of Bogus Firefox UpdateShould this appear on your screen, under no circumstances accept the patch! Cancel, click the X, or close your browser window—whatever you need to do to dismiss the box without accepting its payload. I have checked with Firefox via Twitter, and they assure me that this is not something being pushed out by them.

To illustrate this, I’ve enlarged the command dialog box so that something can be noted. You’ll notice there’s a From: indication, which usually every download has, especially when using Firefox. I want to point out that the From shows an odd URL. There’s nothing about firefox.com or mozilla.com, the latter being the organization that manages Firefox. Of course, if you have no idea of who makes things, you might have thought that this is just another update to click OK to. Now you know better.

I have encountered this bogus update a couple of times now. I’m still not sure where it comes from, but in both situations, I just just surfing the Internet doing research. Research can accidentally lead to disreputable websites, so I was not too surprised to see something like this appear. Often such pop-ups come from ad networks, which trigger by clicking on, or simply loading, a webpage. I’m trying to learn about this breach attempt, and will update this story as I find out more.

In the meantime, be on the lookout for this and copycat bogus patch warnings, which are sure to follow. Remember that Firefox is owned by Mozilla. And also remember that Adobe owns Flash and Adobe Reader, which is sometimes called Acrobat Reader. Sun or Oracle owns JAVA. I know that computer users are so jaded by notices of updates and upgrades they hardly read the alerts any more, and their finger-jerk (well, it’s not knee-jerk) reaction is to just click the OK or Run button to get it over with. If you’re not sure, simply cancel out and let me know.

July 29, 2016

The End of Windows 10!

Filed under: Microsoft,Windows — Michael Cabral @ 12:00 AM

It’s the end of Windows 10…being available to upgrade for free. Sorry for the HuffPost-esque headline, but I hope to get the attention of my readers who use MS Windows before the deadline. This is why I’m sending out the SOHOBE Newsletter a bit early this month, too.

Get Windows 10 Free ImageTo recap, Microsoft has been making Windows 10 available as a free upgrade to its licensed users of Windows. Almost any version of Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1 qualifies. The upgrade is available through the Windows update service. It involves initiating the upgrade, and then crossing your fingers and waiting. And waiting. And, in some cases, waiting. The process is fairly painless, and doesn’t involve having to go to a store and purchasing anything physical.

So, what’s the issue? Well, the issue is that free part. The ability to upgrade to Windows 10 for free expires on Friday, July 29, 2016. As of this writing, that deadline does not look likely to be extended. So, users of MS Windows need to make a decision about whether they wish to take the upgrade before that date if they want to take advantage of the free offer.

So, what will happen to your current version of Windows if you don’t take advantage of the free offer? Basically nothing; your computer should continue to operate as it normally has. Again, end of Extended Support for Windows 7 SP 1 is January 14, 2020. The end of Windows 8.1 Extended Support is January 10, 2023. This means that Microsoft will continue to provide critical security and software patches until that time. Manufacturers traditionally have used these dates to decide how long they offer drivers and patches for their products.

What will happen is that you will miss the opportunity to get Windows 10 for free. Now this offer is something that I’ve talked about for a while. And by now, I’m thinking that most of my clients should have made up their minds one way or the other on the whole upgrade issue. But what happens if you decide to pass on the offer, and then change your mind? Will you still be able to upgrade past the July 29th deadline? The answer is yes, but not for free. According to most sources that I’ve checked, the cost for Windows 10 will be $99, and Windows 10 Pro will be $199.

May 9, 2016

Quick! Time to Say Goodbye!

Filed under: Apple,Threats and Scams — Michael Cabral @ 12:00 AM

BLU Studio C HD SmartphoneDoes your Windows computer have QuickTime on it? It might, especially if you’ve had your computer for a while. Well, no less an authority than the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team says that you should remove it at once. US-CERT, as the agency is also known, is part of the Department of Homeland Security and they make this pronouncement as part of their job to thwart cyber-crime.

QuickTime is Apple’s implementation of a Media Player. There are dozens of Media Players on the market, some free, some not. A Media Player’s application (job) is to play media, naturally. Media is a vague term in the computer industry, but in this case we’re referring to files of the type that are video or audio. In the early days of iTunes, it was required that QuickTime be on your system, so that iTunes could use it for playback purposes. QuickTime was also the preferred format for movie trailers back in the days when ISP speeds necessitated downloading the trailers rather than streaming them.

Image of QuickTime playerBut, as everyone knows, things have changed quickly. iTunes now comes as a rather large download and is complete by itself. Movie trailers are now streamed, and magically play themselves using Flash, Java, or HTML 5. Or something—it doesn’t really matter since it all happens in the background somehow. So, maybe noting the diminished role that QuickTime now plays, Apple has decided to stop supporting the Windows version of QuickTime.

Apple’s decision to make this announcement comes after two exploits against QuickTime have been discovered by security firm Trend Micro. These Zero Day vulnerabilities, as they are known, are weaknesses in QuickTime that could lead to a Windows computer being taken over and used for criminal activities. These are verified problems in QuickTime, and it’s only a matter of time before some nefarian tries to use QuickTime to do no good. So, the advisement is that Windows users should uninstall any version of QuickTime on their system. Apple has even posted an article on how to do that yourself on their website. And do it yourself you must, as there is nothing in Apple’s plan to disable QuickTime. QuickTime will continue to run on Windows XP even if it is unsecured.

Of course it is assumed that Windows users will test to make sure that the proposed removal of QuickTime will not impact other programs installed on their systems. What kind of programs might be impacted? Well, anything to do with media, naturally. So, movie or audio editing software and software that features some sort of playback. Don’t forget games. Some legacy games require QuickTime.

Oh, but you’re on a Mac? Well, then, download and install the latest QuickTime! Apple is still, as far as sources can tell, fully supporting QuickTime on that platform. That means that patches and updates will continue to be offered by Apple. While there is no need to remove the software, however, using the Apple updater to make sure that you have the latest version your Mac will support is always recommended.

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May 2, 2016

Special GrantStation Offer from TechSoup

Filed under: Nonprofit Notes — Michael Cabral @ 12:00 AM

GrantStation LogoOn Tuesday, May 3rd, 11:00 AM until Wednesday, May 4th at 8:00 PM Eastern Time, TechSoup will once again offer GrantStation at a very special price. This discount will allow your agency to purchase a one-year subscription for $99, rather than their already nonprofit adjusted price of $299.

GrantStation is an on-line, subscription-based service that allows nonprofits to search its database for grants and other funding sources. With many nonprofits finding their regular funding cut back or gone entirely, GrantStation may help find ways to fill in the gaps. TechSoup has a great deal of information about the product, including a video showing actual screen shots of the GrantStation system. Again, GrantStation is cloud-based, and does not require a server or any sort special computer networking.

Because this hosted service allows for relatively easy access, anyone with a valid log-in can be given permission to access the GrantStation database. This would allow Board Members or volunteers to help with searching without having time or geographical constraints. It also means your agency won’t have to keep the office open on weekends or late nights, or fuss with Macintosh versus Windows versus Linux issues.

Nearly every year, SOHOBE sends out a special Nonprofit Newsletter to alert its nonprofit clients about this GrantStation offer. TechSoup offers occasional webinars to help explain what GrantStation is, and how it can help your agency find funding resources. The GrantStation website also offers a wealth of on-going trainings and webinars. Some are specific to GrantStation, while others are general topics related to the fundraising process. Some are free, while others require a fee. Finally, you can also contact Applestar’s Jean Marrapodi to help you with your GrantStation and the Grant process.

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November 11, 2013

The Update That Ate My Streams!

Filed under: iTunes,SOHOMike — Michael Cabral @ 12:00 AM

So, iOS 7 is officially released, and along with it comes a brandy new version of iTunes. This new iTunes 11.1 looks normal like all the other iTunes before it. But underneath that bright new interface is a secret lurking within the depths of its code. Without warning, the innocent click of a button will lead to the frightening revelation that… your streams are missing!

Many of my clients know that I like music, and I am a champion of listening to music via the Internet. Some of these sources of music content are very much like the terrestrial radio stations that we know from traditional technology. Generally, we call these streams, because the technology to make them appear like a seamless broadcast constantly downloads bits of the content data. So, there is a steady “stream” of information or data coming to the computer. These streams are sometimes the same content that is being broadcast over the airwaves by fully licensed radio stations. Other times, they’re streams from outfits who only provide their content by the Internet.

iTunes has been the one program that I have unhesitantly recommended for finding and listening to such streaming content. But recently Apple decided to get into the streaming business itself. To do so, it has brought iTunes into its Frankenstein laboratory and sewn together some new parts to the familiar interface. So, now, when you click the Radio button, instead of getting streams, you get the new iTunes Radio service. iTunes Radio is much like Pandora, a competing service. Both iTunes Radio and Pandora depend on you the listener to create your own “stations.” Based on the music you choose to start off with, the service will then self-suggest and play music it’s been programmed to consider similar. Based on my experience with Pandora, these services start off with acceptable musical suggestions, but quickly their logic becomes nonsensical. It seems that I can start off with any artist from Yanni to Bryn Terfel, and eventually the service will begin to play Whitney Houston. It’s enough to even drive Dracula batty.

So, how do you go back to the “DJ-curated” streams from the zombie streams? According to resources that I checked, you can still find the online radio stations listed by clicking the Internet button in the main iTunes window when you have the Music library selected. Of course, you may find that the Internet button is a bit like the Invisible Man. You see, to select the Internet button, you must first enable it as an option. Apple’s near demonic hiding of our Internet music is enough to make you scream!

By the way, these tips only apply on Planet Earth. Why? (I’m so glad you asked!) Because in space, no one can hear your streams…

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